Practice + Research = PR

Research is one of the most imperative things a Public Relations practitioner can undertake to ensure a more effective and successful campaign. It is important to have an insight on issues and understanding of context, then to examine progress, and finally to check what has been achieved, reporting back to management, allowing for analysis or improvement if needed. Most essentially, without sufficient research we would be assuming the outcome and solution rather than investigating the issue at hand (Synnott, 2009).

In 2008 healthy Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Subway developed a new ‘Fresh Fit’ menu. Subway wanted this menu to be impactful and memorable against their other health food competitors. Public relations company Hill & Knowlton conducted a comprehensive media audit to investigate competitors’ healthy messages, the ‘QSR market place; and media attitudes towards this. ‘Analysis included:

  • Competitor offerings
  • Communication messages via all channels
  • Competitor websites and in-store activity/ POP materials

In addition stakeholder mapping was conducted to identify key influencers in the health and nutrition arena. This included consultation with the Dietitians Association of Australia and other key influencers to gain qualitative insights into what they expect in this QSR space.

H&K combined this research with Subway’s own market research into consumer wants for the menu range, from preferred foods to perceptions of potential spokespeople. Consequently, all of the research helped inform the planning process and overall strategic direction. H&K and Subway also identified audiences for the Fresh Fit Campaign, those being the media, consumers, stakeholders and internal/company audiences. A communication strategy was planned to engage Subway’s target audiences, implemented by using a number of researched tactics.

As a result, the campaign increased sales by 8% and re-establishing Subway as the number one healthy QSR. Ultimately, the campaign’s success is testament to the power of PR in consumer marketing, and how it can deliver real communications and business impact for an established brand like Subway’ (Golden Target Awards, 2008).

‘Not every strategy or public relations program you’re going to develop is going to succeed fully. But if you fail because of a lack of research or evaluation, that’s unacceptable and avoidable” (Kawalilak as cited in Chia & Synnott, 2009).

This link provides an  interesting metaphor which explains the differences between qualitative and quantitative research in an atypical but insightful way.


Synnott, G.  (2009). Public Relations Practice. In J. Chia & G. Synnott, An Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice (pp. 157-190). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Synnott, G. (2009). Public Relations Research. In J. Chia & G. Synnott, An Introduction to Public Relations: From Theory to Practice (pp. 125-157). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

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